I found that out while looking for another John Mabee. The search results were filled with John C. Mabee Stakes and “California racing icon”. Well, I had to find out if we were related. We are.
John C. Mabee and me
You have to go back eight generations to Pieter Casper van Naerden Mabee, born in 1626. His parents had come to New Amsterdam, now New York City, from the Netherlands in the 1620s. Pieter Casper Mabee married Aechtje Jans van Norden about 1650. They had six children.
Their son Jan Pieterse is the ancestor of John C. Mabee. A younger son Casparus Pieterszen is the ancestor of my grandmother.
American and Canadian Mabees
The family stayed in the New York and New Jersey areas for more than a hundred years, until the American Revolution. John’s branch stayed in the new USA. My grandmother’s line remained United Empire Loyalists and left for Canada.
Simon Casperson Mabee moved his family to New Brunswick in 1783. His son Silas, my grandmother’s great-great-grandfather, moved between New Brunswick, the US and Ontario, dying likely in Ohio. His children, for the most part, settled in Norfolk and Elgin counties in southwestern Ontario.
John C. Mabee’s great-great-grandfather Bartholomew moved from New York to southern Ohio around 1800 and died in Greenup County in northeastern Kentucky. Bartholomew’s son William Thomas Mabee moved from Ohio to Iowa.
From Bird to Golden Eagle Farm
John Couchman Mabee was born August 21, 1921 in Seymour, Iowa. He was the youngest of John Lynford Mabee and Dora Beatrice Couchman’s four children. They owned a farm and John grew up with a mare named Bird. He suffered from pneumonia and bronchitis. So, from childhood, he wanted to live in a climate better suited to his needs.
In 1941 he married Betty Lee Murphy from nearby Putman County in Missouri. Soon after, they moved to Nevada and then to California. In San Diego, John and Betty started a small grocery store called Johnny’s Market. That one store grew into a chain called Big Bear Supermarkets.
They bought three yearlings in 1957 and began racing. In 1972 they bought a property in San Diego County and built a breeding and racing stable they named Golden Eagle Farm.
Best Pal 1988-1998
Best Pal was maybe their best known horse, a crowd favourite who came in second in the 1991 Kentucky Derby. There’s a race at Del Mar named after him too. The Best Pal Stakes is for 2 year olds at a distance of 6½ furlongs on dirt.
After John died, Betty and son Larry continued operating Golden Eagle Farm. Betty died in 2010 and Larry died two years later. Larry’s son John R. Mabee continued in the racing business. According to posts on Facebook, the Mesa Grande Band of Diegueño Mission Indians bought Golden Eagle Farm in 2019.
Today is normally Belmont Stakes day in New York. But it’s been postponed to June 20th. No fans will be in the stands for what is this year’s first leg of the Triple Crown.